Are you looking to diversify your online income? Think digital products are the only way to go? See how BethAnne Schwamberger went from being a full-time nurse to an Etsy seller, podcaster, blogger and physical product seller (day planners) — and how she's rocking it all over at Brillant Business Moms!
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your entrepreneurial journey.
I’m a military spouse and adoptive mom of a spunky little boy – with another precious boy on the way!
I’m an RN by training, and there were many things that I loved about that job. I loved helping people, putting a smile on someone’s face, easing their fears, or teaching them how to manage their health. However, being a nurse was also insanely stressful, and there were so many elements of the job such as my bosses, the equipment we had to work with, and the staffing that were out of my control. My creative side wasn’t challenged at all as a nurse, and over time, I realized I needed something more. It was time to be my own boss.
My sister and I delved into a few different business ventures, testing out ideas and trying different marketing strategies. The Brilliant Business Moms Podcast was born out of our need to learn business strategies from other smart ladies, and the brand grew from there.
My sister has since left the project (though she’s still a friend and fan!) and our brand has expanded into physical and digital products.
How did you get into the business of creating and selling planners?
The podcast had been going strong for several months, and we started to form a community of ladies who were eager to learn from one another. We kept hearing over and over again that one of the biggest struggles mamapreneurs were facing was the issue of TIME. How could they make time for their business and their families?
Sarah and I realized we had a lot that we could teach on this topic, so we decided to write a book designed specifically for Mamapreneurs, called Time Management Mama.
From that book, the idea for a planner that encompassed all of our best time management strategies was born.
How did you create your prototype for the Brilliant Life Planner?
The first prototype of the Brilliant Life Planner was a product called the Brilliant Business Planner (which we still sell in our shop as a PDF.) We formed a focus group within our community to hear what was important for this planner to include – like a time blocking layout, and to-do lists for business and personal. We also studied the market, observing what we liked about other planners as well as what was clearly missing from the planner market.
Once we had audience input along with our ideas, we began sketching out the different planning pages on blank white paper. We took those messy sketches, scanned them into our computers, and found some great designers who were able to turn them into beautiful planner pages for us.
Our very first planner was created by a local print shop. This was a great place to start for beginners like us. We were able to stop by to look at samples and work closely with the shop as they made our vision come to life.
How did you find a manufacturer for your planner?
After our first season of planner sales, we realized we needed a manufacturer who could provide more features for our planner and produce them at a more affordable price.
I began scouring the internet, particularly on Alibaba, to find planner manufacturers overseas. After messaging several of them to get a feel for the kinds of planners they could create, along with minimum order requirements, I settled on my favorite printer.
My contact at the printing company has been fabulous to work with, and she’s made ordering new samples, formatting our files, and everything else so very easy!
What type of e-commerce website are you using? Why did you choose this platform?
After starting our business on Etsy, we eventually made the move to Shopify. Shopify provides so many fabulous features, like integrating with ShipStation for easy shipment, integrating with affiliate programs like Referral Candy, and best of all, allowing us to create buyable pins and our own little shop right on Facebook.
When it comes to creating an online store, I truly feel that Shopify is the gold standard. I can’t imagine using anything else!
Since planners are generally purchased at the beginning of the year, how are you diversifying your income?
While the Brilliant Business Planner was transforming into the Brilliant Life Planner, I began diversifying my product offering by creating online courses. My first course is all about Pinterest marketing, and it’s called Brilliant Pin Promotion. I was able to sell this course steadily through the Spring and Summer of 2016. My second course is all about Facebook advertising; it’s called FB Brilliance. My second course launch exploded, and it’s been so fun teaching other business owners how to craft brilliant online marketing strategies. I sell other digital and physical business resources as well, like books on time management and Etsy SEO.
What do you believe has contributed to your success?
Honestly, a great part of my success has been surrounding myself with – you guessed it – other brilliant business moms! I’ve intentionally sought out wisdom from others in my field and community, which is a bit counter-intuitive. I don’t fret about competition; I certainly have a mindset that a ‘rising tide lifts all boats,’ and it’s paid off.
I also surround myself with other brilliant business moms in terms of the women I hire in my business. I have several ladies who work part-time for me each week, and they are so talented, creative, and passionate about the mission of Brilliant Business Moms. The business would not have grown so rapidly without their hard work and help.
How are you currently growing your business?
Since I’m several months pregnant and eyeing a 3-month maternity leave coming up soon (!!), I am intentionally holding steady and growing at a sustainable momentum. I plan to use these next few months to test out a few more physical products, launch a few self-paced mini-courses, and bring my podcast back. Then once I’m back from maternity leave, we’ll be ramping up for our 2018 planner season!
What advice do you have for other women who want to develop a physical product?
Don’t be afraid of physical products. There are tons of bloggers and online business owners out there who will try to convince you that digital is the way to go. Less risk, higher profit margins: What could be easier?
Well, what they’re not telling you is that your course students or e-book purchasers may expect or require a LOT of time and support from you. Digital products are not nearly the passive income they’re made out to be.
There’s something to be said for creating something tangible that your customer can hold in their hands.
You can set yourself apart online by offering physical products in addition to your digital ones, and to be honest, the margins can be just as great if you’re a brilliant business woman who plans and prices well.
Thanks, BethAnne Schwamberger for sharing your amazing story! Do you sell physical products online? Do you have questions about selling physical products? We'd love to hear from you!
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